It matters

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as
faithful stewards of God's grace in various forms." - 1 Peter 4:10


It was a Friday. The family had gathered and we knew that the time Pops, my maternal grandfather, had left with us was short. Jesus would come for him soon. As the daylight faded to evening in that three-bedroom ranch house, Mamaw sat at his bedside, her hand in his. Quiet conversations among loved ones and the whir of the oxygen machine filled the air.

Hospice had already checked in for the day. Over the course of several days, loved ones who also call professional nursing their chosen vocation, had been rotating shifts, volunteering their time, hearts, talents and expertise to care for him. Their respectful and kind words and actions would prove comforting for the family at such a tender time.

[Serve others. It matters.]

Somewhere in the midst of the evening's confusing mix of both chaos and deafening silence, Mamaw's sisters hopped in the car and headed up the highway. They returned an hour later to fill the kitchen with groceries and make a pot of chili. Mamaw's brother had come earlier in the day with homemade cookies, and my paternal grandma came to drop off fresh baked goods and groceries of her own.

It might sound silly, but there's a certain level of comfort in a ham, cheese and potato chip sandwich with mustard on fresh Sunbeam, a bowl of chili and a warm brownie.

The next day's comfort was a pot of veggie soup. In the days to come it would be a casserole from a lifelong friend, groceries from a neighbor, a pulled pork and macaroni and cheese meal from Mom's fellow church member, and homemade desserts from my parents' friends. Not having to think about meals or eat another supper from a sack was priceless.

[Take the meal. It matters.]

Pops met Jesus in person in the early morning hours of a peaceful Sunday. I know every family member processed it differently, but for me it was an odd feeling of release knowing he was healed, coupled with grief over losing him and my thoughts of "What now?"

The days ahead felt surreal to me. The family had come together well to care for Pops in his final earthly moments and now we'd spend the week making arrangements to honor his life. My cousin, also Pops' granddaughter, works in the funeral industry and has experience guiding grieving families through the process of celebrating life. In her own grief, she led the family well. Each family member took on a role that week and the resulting service was a beautiful tribute to a life well lived.

[Love your family well. It matters.]

Pastor had visited with Pops just a week before his passing. With family gathered around from as far away as Arkansas, we spent the day sharing stories and enjoying what we all secretly knew but didn't want to accept was probably Pops' last good day.

He'd wanted to be in church so badly that day, but the pain had stolen that from him. He requested that the rest of us go and that the church hold hands while singing "Blest be the Tie that Binds." Sing they did. There wasn't a dry eye in the House of the Lord that day. I know I saw a tear in Pops' eye too as he watched the video.

Since it wasn't meant to be for Pops to see church that day, Pastor came down to the house to visit and pray with the family. His prayers, the prayers from the people of the congregation, and the prayers from loved ones were heard. God's grace would abound in the precious moments, the hard days and the grief. And it abounds still today.

[Sing the song. Pray the prayers. It matters.]

Overcast skies gave way to bright sunshine that crisp morning. Dressed in our best, we headed to that beautiful country church Pops and a few generations of my family have called home. A driver from the florist arrived carrying the most breathtaking bouquet. It was from my husband's mom, his siblings and our nieces and nephews.

Friends and family came to call, to say they cared and to pay their respects to a man who had impacted countless lives. Among the callers? My father-in-law and his beloved who drove an hour and a half to be there and who stayed for the entire service.

Loved ones sent cards with heartfelt notes. Many made donations to worthy causes in memory of Pops and his legacy. One friend sent a pot of zinnias knowing I'd mentioned them being his favorite flower, another sent a Grandfather Willow Tree figurine and yet another a bag of chocolates.

[Mail the card. Make the donation. Attend the service. Send the flowers. Give the gift. 

Honor the memory and acknowledge the grief however you can. It matters.]

In the last several weeks, I have learned so much from the kindness and compassion of others. Pops was a man who gave freely to those in need (but always so quietly and humbly), and every person who served him and our family in the last several weeks in any form or fashion has honored him in such a fitting way. You've also taught me so many lessons about how I can serve and acknowledge others in their times of need and grief.

So thank you. I sincerely mean it when I say it matters.

Please note that there are many, many people who served our family well over the last several weeks and this blog is nowhere near all-encompassing. The town I call home these days is 1.5 hours from my family, so there were too many days when I wasn't able to be there and didn't get to see all of the people who were pouring out kindness on my family. I also can't possibly list every individual floral arrangement, donation, prayer, or service attendee. But every one of you was noticed and every one of you has made a difference.

Please know that my heart's gratitude is for all of you.